Posted in book review, Miscellany

The Rambler – History

As members of society and citizens of the world, we are one way or another connected to the past, present, and future. That is why history is a multidisciplinary study to understand human nature and learn lessons from the past. Listen to Winston Churchill: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”  Watching our nation’s leaders on T.V., dividing the country into splinters of dissenters instead of embracing them as one people of the nation, makes me urge the current political leaders of our country to read about what it means to be an intelligent and influential ruler who knows a thing about leadership.

Roman emperor Hadrian was of history scholar, specialized in ancient Greek history and mythology. He was affectionately known as a “Greekling” and endeared and admired by the Greeks whose land he made in the Roman Empire. The Greeks’ love of the Roman Emperor was inscribed in the Arch of Hadrian built in AD 131, an archeological wonder with the 59 feet high structure made from marble from Mount Pentellicus used for the Parthenon, that read: “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.” The Greek elation reached the pinnacle when their Roman ruler built the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s dedication to the king of Greek gods and goddesses’ splendor. He also made the legendary Library of Hadrian, containing 100 marble columns with halls with printed ceilings, alabaster walls, and great statues of the Olympians destroyed by the malice of fortune AD 267. Greek enthusiasm for their Roman emperor was no unreason for their willing submission to Rome’s rule, which they had once colonized. The site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian in modern Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian

Hadrian’s fascination with Greece developed from his learning under the tutelage of his cousin Trojan became a foundation of Pan-Hellenism to turn Athens into a new cosmopolitan cultural center for the Roman Empire. By way of acculturation, Hadrian hoped to stabilize the Roman Empire’s fractious eastern part and effectuate the colonials’ ruling. Hadrian followed what the antecedent Roman poet laureate Virgil in the Aeneid to solidify Greece and Rome’s cultural link. In this fashion, he succeeded in ruling the colony with glad acceptance by the governed, who even declared him a founder of new cosmopolitan Greece, intent on cutting ties with the mythical ancient past.

Hadrian’s motto of Pan-Hellenism reminds me of Macedonian predecessor Alexander the Great’s Hellenism, both of which proved work in incorporating different cultures into a dominant culture with respect and benevolence. Both Alexander and Hadrian had an eye for beauty in arts embedded in cultures they annexed to the dominion and knew how to rule wisely and effectively. It was acculturation of the native cultures on both sides, the ruling and the ruled. Yet, Hadrian’s way of exercising sovereignty over Greece is more accommodating and welcoming, even if the intention was not free from political ambition. The ancient Athenian historian Thucydides confirmed that history is the ultimate record of the events by recognizing certain commonalities between the past and the present that transcends the subject of times and applying it to our present situation. If our current political leaders take a cue about social integration to the same vein’s present social conditions, it might help the country stratified by race and class.

Posted in Miscellany

The Rambler – Religion

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary,” said Thomas More, who died for his relentless faith despite Henry VIII’s promise of honor he would confer on to his most trusted counsel in his cabinet. Samuel Johnson also confirmed that faith required no byzantine theories or philosophy for the validity of truth. Until I attended a public Sunday mass in a parking lot yesterday, I had not realized the power of faith, which I doubted I still had in my heart.

The beautiful liturgy of the mass, which culminated in the Eucharist, was akin to a flowing of streams of life to the eyes of a seasick seaman and the thirst of a weary traveler. I had never expected such exaltation of the soul with faith disappearing into an abyss of despondency populated with a school of doubt, disbelief, and frustration nurtured in a reality of everyday life. But while listening to a priest’s sermon based on the reading of Matthew 25:31-46, which is about the importance of practicing faith into actions, especially by sharing milk of human kindness with people you feel least likable or unkindest.

The priest further asked if we would counsel with God in making decisions in life or just about anything needful of help. No one answered yes because let’s face it, we regard such tendency to recourse to God as a derogatorily medieval way of living life in this Digital Age of Artificial Intelligence. We try to reason our faith with the validity of practical truth and willfully turn our heads from the Gospel with the usual facade of “Religion has nothing to do with it.” But then can you also prove that we are nothing but of a highly complex living organism made of accidental atoms, sans souls? What is the feeling that urges you to search for meaning in life, our sense of purpose? Can atoms do it?

It is my wholly solipsistic reflection of hearing mass, but now I feel like finding Ariadne’s Thread in the labyrinth to find a way out on this last day of the church calendar. What a feeling. Peace to be with you, and God bless you all. 

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Samuel Johnson Rambles on the practicality of knowledge – essay

Ignorance is the timorous and indolent plight from fear because knowledge is considered to be remotely extensive and inscrutable to be comprehended. It retards the progress of the mind and numbs the sense. Samuel Johnson avers in his weekly essay ‘The Rambler, No. 137’ avers that one remains unenlightened unless he is diligent to search for the origin of wonder with a pause of reason, a sudden cessation of mental progress when confronting the unknown to him. The need for general knowledge, the knowledge that confers Citizenship of the World, is an essential element of human characteristics, and an easy task to fulfill in search of meaning in life.

Johnson’s idea of knowledge is simplicity. It is jettisoned from a concatenation of needless abstrusely sophisticated theories and ideologies. It also chimes the bell with the Renaissance virtuoso Leonard da Vinci’s adage that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication in all principles. However intimidating or formidable the unknown is, the essential feature is simple to understand by way of ‘Divide and Conquer,” a principle that complication is a confederacy of the abstruse that can be broken into parts marked by the gradations from the first agent to the last consequence. The force that breaks the shackle of fear for conquering the unknown huddle is patient diligence armored in confidence. The labor of inquiry for wonder follows natural curiosity and confidence that eclipses the soul’s darkness. It comes to fruition by ceaseless efforts to ascertain the origin of the wonder in simple ways. The English philosopher who also advocated democratic pedagogy, John Locke, affirms that the surest way of thorough comprehension knowledge is to attempt little by way of repetition. For the widest excursions of the mind result from short flights of mental imagery and instant thoughts triggered by neurons fired in our cerebral cortex, which can be transformed into an organization of ideas firmly engraved in the mind.

However, knowledge loses its purpose if it dissipates into the possessor’s cerebral ether or is locked in the mind’s cabinet. It becomes useful and purposeful when put into practice. That is why Johnson gives heed to those who pride themselves in the impressive educational backgrounds and belittle others whose mental capacities they arbitrarily judge ignorable or even ordinary. Knowledge is for share, and it is a duty of a scholar who has a wider variety of knowledge through years of academic endeavors for the common benefits of the world he lives in. As Francis Bacon fittingly concurs, books can never teach the use of books. Generally speaking, it is common for intellectuals, despite their ostensible calls for democracy and justice for all, to live out of touch with the practical realities of life and often regard such matters as trifles. But what is worthy of their glorious learning if it does not accommodate the purpose of life? Johnson criticizes such lofty arrogance of the rarified subset of the general population because they lose their days in unsocial silence and live in the crowd of life without a touch of humanity. It also reminds me of Bacon’s utterance of loneliness in a group as such: “Magna Civitas, Magna solitudo.” In this regard, George Orwell is together with Johnson because they saw the educated’s superciliousness, the intellectuals, who often conferred their knowledge to their honor in the voluntary seclusion.

Upon reading Johnson’s essay, I could not help but wholeheartedly agree with the purpose of knowledge and the idea of sharing it with others for the world’s common good. I was also glad to learn that I was not the only one who thought that people with academic credentials were frequently dismissive of the opinions of what they regarded as the mortals of the ordinary among whom I am. Therefore, I hope that the reader who reads this essay of mine should not belittle the soul attempting to obtain the sunshine of the light of letters to understand the world in a perspicuous way to declare to the world that I also can think and express it cogently. That is my essay on knowledge for the purpose of life.

Posted in book review

‘Writers and Their Cats’ by Alison Nastasi – review

Writers and Their Cats: (Gifts for Writers, Books for Writers, Books about Cats, Cat-Themed Gifts)Writers and Their Cats: by Alison Nastasi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If dogs are man’s best friends with their childlike artlessness and uninhibited affection, what are cats? Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, answered thus: “Cats are so nice and selfish.” Writers and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi is a delightful illustration of such a relationship between writers and their cats with peek-a-boo glimpses of the celebrity authors’ unknown personal aspects behind the public façade.

The fascination with the graceful demeanor and graceful capriciousness of cats is particularly intense among the volatile and imaginative writers as the muse of their lettered labyrinths. Edgar Allan Poe wished he could write as mysteriously good as his cat Catarina who liked to hover herself over Poe’s shoulders while he was writing. Mark Twain, whom I used to associate with something of a Dog Father, turns out to be a godfather of cats who rented cats to city dwellers during their holidays in the countryside. Twain also named his cats commensurate with his wicked sense of humor: Satan, Soapy Sal, Lazy, etc. Furthermore, Twain proclaimed that anyone who likes a cat is his friend. The imposing figure of rough and tough Ernest Hemingway may not match the delicate silhouettes of cats’ sophisticated society. Still, Papa Hemingway loved them with the tenderness he rarely showed even to his better halves.

The book also introduces readers to various writers of our digital era whose love of cats takes them to the world outside their comfort zones in selective solitude. Patricia Highsmith, a high-strung, highly opinionated, no-nonsense author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, reveals her Tate-a-Tate moments by greeting her cat, “We are going to have a great day today.” Marion James, who wrote A Brief History of Seven Killings, met Tom the Cat at a café in Brooklyn, New York, who, like the writer, enjoyed being outside among people because both of them thrived on the liveliness of the world around them as a creative force. Then Peeti Shency, the Indian novelist and artist, writes about the experience of sharing a terrific story about her trip to the Kedar-Gouri Temple dedicated to the eponymous goddess with a particular fondness of cats, thus elevating them to the divine status of the immortals. Shency resurrects the legends of holy cats in the temple to our digitalized reality of the world and connects them to our need for their presence for nature’s mysteriousness.

There are many other writers in the book whose love for their cats are touching. They all confess to their odes to cats that only cats can understand what they are and who they are. Whether or not cats have a supernatural sense of reading people’s minds, I have no intelligence. Still, I do know that a cat is good at observing your movement and facial expression from my observation of Toro, a 12-week old male brown tabby kitten, who likes to watch me what I am doing and where I am going. A cat is a curiously interesting beast, and it is this semblance of intelligence that makes a cat so attractive to the imaginative, high-strung writers. If you have a cat at home and a writer at heart, this book will present you with a delightful treat to your mind, packed full of beautiful pictures of writers and their cats not in grim portraiture but natural snapshots. Readers may tempt to show the writers’ photos with their cats to your cats.

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